Il Parco della Musica

When viewed from above, Rome's three new auditoriums can resemble a trio of beetles in a backyard. This may be why the perennially irreverent romani have taken to calling them Gli Scarafaggi (The Cockroaches). There are probably few places on earth where architecture can elicit as violent reactions as in Italy - after all, it's been a national pastime for millennia - and the new complex that is nearing completion on the banks of the Tiber near the ancient Ponte Milvio and the neo-classical Olympic Stadium is no exception.

One of the few things most Romans did agree on was that its own Orchestra di Santa Cecilia was being forced to perform in woefully outdated and undersized quarters. Basically, these have been its "temporary" home since Mussolini demolished the historical Augusteo in 1934. The new replacement has taken ten years and cost 140 million Euro (not that much, actually, by most modern standards of sloppy construction bookkeeping). The complex was designed by Renzo Piano, the masterful Italian genius who is also currently at work on the new home of the New York Times and the church in Padre Pio's hometown of San Giovanni Rotondo. The three halls, a Papa Hall, a Mama Hall and a Baby Hall, are built of local materials: travertine, red bricks and lead, whose color will take on the same patina as the rooftops of the centro storico, with time. Inevitably, as the site was being prepared, a vast Roman villa from the 5th century BC was discovered. All construction had to be halted while the architect totally redesigned the project to include the find, and its ruins can now be visited.

The Mama Hall, or, to use less fanciful and more correct terms, the mid-size hall, was inaugurated on April 21 (Rome's official birthday). The small hall has also been completed, and the largest is due to open its doors in December. The Music Park is open to the public every weekend for concerts and more informal gatherings. Along with the auditoriums, there are also shops, restaurants and a 700-car parking structure. Eventually the extended site will also include Zaha Hadid's equally controversial National Center for Contemporary Arts; additionally, the two stadiums designed by another hero of the architectural world, Pietro Nervi, will be renovated after Papa Hall has his debut. Getting there without a car is recommended, and you can do that by taking the #225 tram from Piazzale Flaminio, or the overground train that runs from Piazzale Flaminio to Piazza Euclide.

Click here for the Auditorium's web page.